USF's Herd of Thunder (HOT) marching band rang in 2013 by playing London's New Year's Day Parade in front of an estimated crowd of more than half a million people. Band members and some of the staff that traveled with them shared their memories of the trip with WUSF's University Beat. Here are half a dozen 'high notes:'
1. HOT was the featured band, marching the two mile route through historic downtown London after almost 10-thousand band members, cheerleaders and other performers had already gone past the huge crowd.
"Being at the end of the parade," said junior mellophone player Samantha Snow, "I was really happy that the amount of people that stood out there that cold morning and waited until the very end of the parade to watch us perform, and they were just still so excited and happy to see us and just (gave us) 'Happy New Year' wishes the whole way.”
“It was like an intimate setting that they’re almost part of the parade with you," said junior tuba player and HOT captain Melissa Adams. "When we were dancing, they were dancing right along with us and they were almost part of the show as well.”
2. The weather wasn't as bad as many feared it would be -- around 40 degrees with bright sunshine on January 1. Long pants, leggings and sweatshirts under their uniforms kept the band members warm -- for the most part.
“We were freezing our ears off waiting for the parade to start," said Adams. "But once it did start, it was warm and we’re dancing and having fun and it didn’t bother me."
3. Rocky the Bull is HUGE in London.
"I guarantee you Rocky was the most photographed part of the parade," said HOT Director Matthew McCutchen. "Young children, old men, you name it, everybody, everybody wanted a picture with Rocky. So all of a sudden, our main mascot is going to be seen internationally and that can only help us.”
McCutchen adds that at one point, he had to send five tuba players to pull Rocky away from a crowd of adoring fans and escort him away, Secret Service-style.
4. Getting the Herd to London was an endeavor. While band members were responsible for paying for their own way (about $3,000 each), HOT administrators had to get over 100 band members and staff, along with all their equipment, to London.
“It was a lot of really just paperwork and making sure that things are where they need to be, that we’ve assigned people to rooms, that we’ve assigned people to airline flights," said HOT administrator Jason Bombaugh. "The band actually went on two separate airplanes and so we kind of had to split up, so we needed to make sure that we knew where everyone was going and where they were going to be.”
Bombaugh was also responsible for packaging the band's uniforms and instruments, with the shipment of 95 crates weighing around 3,000 pounds and filling two moving vans for the trip to the airport and the flight to London.
5. One person who didn't make the trip -- physically -- was USF President Judy Genshaft.
However, Melissa Adams carried a giant photo of Genshaft's smiling face that she gives to other USF students and alumni to take pictures of on worldwide travels. Adams says the resulting Facebook page, Judy Travels the World, "honors her and shows USF's reach all around the world."
As a result, Adams was able to take pictures (that you can see above) on the trip of President Genshaft in London and Paris, which students made a day trip to.
6. Both HOT students and staff say the trip was so successful, they hope for another one soon.
“It’s a remarkable experience to travel with my closest friends to go do something that I love to do and you don’t have to pay me to do it or anything," said Samantha Snow. "It’s called ‘playing music,’ not ‘working music’ for a reason, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
"I’m pushing for another London trip or maybe a Paris trip or a Macy’s Parade or something like that," added Bombaugh. "In a way, it is a once in a lifetime thing and another way, you never know at USF what’s going to be thrown your way that’s just going to be fantastic—every time I think we’ve done it all, we do something new."